Children would get the fundamental right to free and compulsory education with the passage of a bill, hailed as “historic”, by Parliament on Tuesday.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008, seeks to provide education to children aged between 6 to 14 years.
The Bill, one of the flagship programmes in the 100-day agenda of the UPA government, also earmarks 25 per cent seats to weaker sections in private schools.
While the Rajya Sabha okayed the bill earlier, the Lok Sabha putting its seal of approval on Tuesday, with HRD Minister Kapil Sibal describing it as “harbinger of a new era” for children to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
He said the bill is a “historic opportunity” for providing better future to children of the country as there was never such a landmark legislation in the last 62 years since independence.
“We as a nation cannot afford our children not going to schools,” he asserted, noting that the measure details the obligations of the Centre and the states for providing free and compulsory education to children.
The Bill also seeks to do away with the practice of schools taking capitation fees before admission and subjecting the child or parents to any screening procedure.
Sibal said it would be up to the states to implement the policy of reservation in admissions.
Responding to members' concern on the financial requirement of the gigantic task, he said a group was on the job which would provide inputs to the 13th Finance Commission before completion of its term in October this year.
Sibal said the government has taken a difficult task on hand as it could not have waited any longer. He said that the bill could become reality due to the inspiration of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister.
He said that minority education institutions should also focus on giving education to those disadvantaged within the community.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the present system of examination, he said at present the child has no choice but to take exams and the government was determined to end it.
The Bill seeks to achieve ten broad objectives which include free and compulsory education, obligation on the part of state to provide education, nature of curriculum consistent with Constitution, quality, focus on social responsibility and obligation of teachers and de-bureaucratisation in admissions.
The Bill also provides for building up of neighbourhood schools in three years by the states. The minister said the definition and location will be decided by the states.